The Old Fitz, one of Sydney’s best-loved pubs, has earned a reputation for incubating some of Australia’s finest talented chefs. A notable alumnus is Nik Hill, who now runs the excellent Porcine in Paddington. The current chef, Anna Ugarte-Carral, is an award-winning chef who has worked in the kitchens of some of the best restaurants in the world. As Ugarte-Carral wraps up his stay at the Old Fitz, another young hottie, Toby Stansfield, shows up to run the kitchen.
What were you doing before taking this position?
I opened Fabbrica Pasta Shop with the guys from Ragazzi [as head chef]. I was running this, building it from scratch, and then our wholesale and retail needs outgrew our space, so I helped them open their production kitchen, which I’ve been doing for six to eight months.
What kind of food do you like to cook?
I love to cook… so many different things. Modern Australian-type stuff is probably what I have in mind right now, because I like to mix and match a lot of things. I wouldn’t say I cook a particular cuisine a lot or anything, but I really like to mix and match.
What do you expect to do in this new role?
I want to bring nostalgia: things I had when I was growing up that I was really used to, and things you see in everyday places, like bakeries or bistros. But make it more fun, rather than maybe the stock norm. For example, I really want to put a rooster roll on the menu instead of a burger or something. For me, it’s a really kitschy thing that I love to play with. Doing like a premium rooster roll would be a pretty fun and exciting thing to play I think. And just like Australian classics like a slice of vanilla, but making it mine. Basically, messing with nostalgia is really what I want to do. There will be a bit of European influence, but mostly I will try to hit that Aussie thing.
What can we expect from the menu?
I’m going to keep it pretty light where I can. I’m definitely going to keep some pub classics in there – along with my own twists. I will also always have pasta – probably handmade – on the menu. I will also try to use as many Australian products as possible. Try to get your hands on as many local things as possible and play with them.
How many menus will there be?
There are three levels at the Old Fitz, and you can eat at all of them. So I’m probably going to come up with two menus, they’ll overlap a bit, so there will be a shorter hands menu at the bar and then some fun and flirty stuff happening at the bistro. There will, however, be some overlapping dishes. But the bar menu will be a bit more pub food and then upstairs will be more like something you would find in a bistro.
And last question, what is your favorite thing to put in a sandwich?
That’s a very good question. Something I love to put in a sandwich is the pickle. Like the kind of pickle spread you can buy. You would usually have it around Christmas, all that ham left in the fridge. You make a sandwich – the pickle is the only choice. It’s bright yellow. I still like the one from Masterfoods to be honest it was just the one from the fridge. It’s like Keens mustard powder or what a Hoover is for a vacuum cleaner. So I always have pickles in my fridge. It’s always good when you eat charcuterie or a small vegetarian sandwich.
The salted pepper is also excellent. I’ve been doing this for a long time I probably discovered it in Rockpool actually it’s just chopped, brined chillies – I like to brine mine for about a month which takes a lot of the heat out and gives it a nice season – then mix it or chop it, depending on your mood for the day, then spread it on your sandwich.
Toby Stansfield will take over The Old Fitz from the end of June.